Explosive wildfire in Southern California forces thousands to evacuate

A wind-whipped wildfire exploded early Tuesday in Southern California, forcing more than 27, 000 people to evacuate and causing at least one death.

Ventura County Fire officials said “The Thomas Fire” broke out Monday evening east of Santa Paula, located about 60 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.   The fire has grown to 31, 000 acres has destroyed 150 structures, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

“The prospects for containment are not good, ” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said at a news conference. “ Really, Mother Nature is going to decide when we have the ability to put it out. ”

The Thomas Fire rages on the side of a hill early Tuesday in Ventura County, Calif   (VCFD PIO)

Officials said one person had died in an auto accident related to the fire, but did not give any details. An injury to a firefighter has also been reported, according to officials.

There is zero percent containment of the fire, officials said at a Monday night press conference. A total of 500 firefighters are battling the fire, and power outages have been reported in Santa Paula, Camarillo, Ventura and Santa Barbara.

Southern California Edison said not quite 180, 000 customers in the Ventura County area were without service.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered ordered for East Ventura, north of Foothill Road.   (VCFD PIO)

The fire happens to be burning chaparral, a brush which has not burned in 20 years. The reason for the fire is undetermined.

Authorities say Ventura, a city of over 100, 000 people 12 miles away, is expected to feel the effects of the fire soon. Thomas Aquinas College, a school with about 350 students, has also been evacuated.

Evacuation shelters have been set up at the Miners Building at the Ventura County Fairgrounds and Nordhoff High School, FOX11 Los Angeles reported .

Residents located outside the evacuation zone watched the blaze shift along the nearby hills overnight, and debated whether they should stay or go.

“ I just hope we’ re all right, ” Taylor Penny told the Los Angeles Times .

The National Weather Service said winds of 43 mph with gusts over 60 mph have been reported in the area, and are expected to continue throughout the day.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.